Consumption advisory still in place three years after a CN Rail train derailed
Source: Sherwood Park News
Published: August 23rd 2008

The effects of the CN Rail trail derailment just over three years ago are still being felt, as there is still evidence of contamination at Lake Wabamun.

A fish and waterfowl consumption advisory sent out by Alberta Health Services – Capital Health and Health Canada last week warns that although no accumulation of oil or chemicals have been found in waterfowl or fish tested, consumption by humans should still be limited.

The Alberta Sustainable Resource Development – Fish and Wildlife has restricted fishing at Lake Wabamun to catch and release only, meaning that no fish caught in the lake is allowed to be kept.

“Our catch and release regulation this year is purely a population related rule,” said Mike Jenkinson, public affairs spokesperson for Fish and Wildlife.

“It has nothing to do with any consumption advisories that Capital Health has in place.”

He noted that catch and release regulations are very common and fluctuate with the needs of each individual lake.

Ongoing contaminant monitoring in fish and waterfowl has been conducted since the derailment happened in 2005, and although there have been no signs of accumulated oils or chemicals, bird consumption should be limited to only those that were not contaminated in the original oil spill.

A numbered metal leg band distinguishes a bird that has been contaminated and rehabilitated from one that has not.

A list can be obtained through Capital Health on which of these numbered birds is unsafe to consume.

Although use of Lake Wabamun has returned to normal since the spill, there is still some oil sitting at the bottom of the lake.

Depending on the wind and the temperature, traces of the oil can surface occasionally in the form of tar balls that wash ashore and oil sheens that surface the water.

“We’ll continue to monitor (the lake) as long as there are these manifestations of the oil, but we don’t know how long it will take (to be contaminant free),” said Dr. Gerry Predy, medical officer for Capital Health.

Some people who have been in contact with the oil while swimming have developed minor skin rashes and irritation as well as upset stomachs if that water is swallowed.

“Beyond that we don’t anticipate any chronic effects,” he said.

The oil spill into Lake Wabamun occurred after 43 cars of a CN Rail train derailed due to a faulty track that had many fractures.

More than 700,000 litres of bunker oil and other chemicals were spilled into the lake just 50 km west of Edmonton.

CN Rail was charged under Alberta’s Environmental Protection act with failing to take all reasonable measures to remedy and confine a spill.